traveling with a camera

Traveling with a Camera by Natalie Parker

I’ve been mulling a lot about traveling with a camera.

I’ve had my DSLR for a bit now and have taken it on a few trips.  It’s been on short trips in and out of the country as well as one long trip to Antarctica.  I’m starting to wonder whether I need another camera to add to my arsenal.

I used to carry around a pretty cheap point and shoot.  We upgraded to the DSLR because Mr. P was tired of seeing me attempting artsy shots with a cheap camera.  The DSLR takes beautiful photos.

However, the DSLR is also a lug to carry around.  Getting it out of my bag when we’re traveling makes me think twice about whether it’s worth getting a shot (which is no bueno in my mind).  I loved being able to whip out the point and shoot to get a shot that was quick and unobtrusive.  I also loved the option of carrying a smaller bag.  One of my worst fears in life is schlepping.*

Handling the camera with cold weather gear was challenging in Antarctica.  Despite the photo below (wherein Mr. P told me I couldn’t possibly use the DSLR when wearing 2 layers of gloves), I handed off camera duties for most of the trip.

Traveling with a Camera by Natalie Parker

In my trip to Oregon recently, I left the camera at home and used my phone.  That was great for a quick weekend, but not doable for a longer trip.

Perhaps a higher quality point and shoot is needed to fill this void?  I’m leaning that way.  But I fear having that option will make me eschew the DSLR and since I bought the damn thing, I’m determined to get my money’s worth.

Somewhere there has to be a balance between quality and the schlep factor.

Your thoughts?  What camera do you use to travel?

*If you ask me what worries me about parenthood, I will always (naively, because I don’t know what’s coming to me) say that I don’t want to have to carry around a ton of stuff in order to leave the house.

Taking Photos in Museums

On taking photos in museums by Natalie ParkerI’ve been showing you my New York vacation scrapbook pages, a lot of which feature some bad museum pictures.  It’s been 8 years since that trip and I’ve visited many more museums with my camera.  Here is what I learned:

Take Just a Few Photos: No one wants to see photos of what I saw in a museum unless it’s a rare circumstance.  I take a few photos to convey the experience, not to document exactly what I’m seeing.

What do I mean by that?  I didn’t try and get the best picture of Monet’s waterlilies at the Orangerie.  Instead, I snapped a couple photos of Mr. P contemplating them.  I can show how the visit felt, the curvature of the room, and it helps me remember the time Mr. P spent taking in the paintings.

On taking photos in museums by Natalie ParkerI’ll snap a few photos of objects or paintings just to use in my scrapbook later.  If I can, I’ll try and get the sign outside the museum.  Other than that, I’m at the museum to enjoy it, not document the heck out of it.

I’ve learned not to ever use a flash in a museum.  If I can’t get a good photo without it, I don’t get one.

Follow the Rules: This always bugs me so listen up!  If you are carrying a camera it is your responsibility to know the photography rules of the place you are visiting, period.  Some museums allow photographs, some don’t.  Most don’t allow flash photography.  If you don’t know how to turn off your flash, don’t take the picture.  If photography is not allowed, then no pictures, not even with your phone.

When Mr. P and I visited the Valley of the Kings, we couldn’t bring cameras inside the gates.  I was bummed because I at least wanted to get pictures outside the tombs in the Valley.  Our guide told us flash photography really damages the paintings inside the tombs and too many people used their flashes, claiming that it was an accident or they didn’t know how to turn it off.  Result? No cameras for anyone in the Valley of the Kings, not even outside the tombs.

The photo at the beginning of this post is of the Mona Lisa in the Louvre.  I snapped a couple pictures of the painting when we got there, then went back right before lunch to capture the melee.

On Traveling and Taking Pictures

Mr. P, being ever so thoughtful as normal, brought this CNN article to my attention recently.  It’s about travel, social media and technology and how those things affect how much of our travels we share with friends.

It’s a very interesting read and I agree with many of the author’s points.  It made me realize that there isn’t a right answer to this issue and it’s up to me to balance.

For example, I will still show pictures from my vacations on Facebook.  However, I do not “photo dump” every single picture I took for my friends to see.  I very carefully pick the best ones.  There’s nothing that makes me not care anymore about looking at someone’s trip as having to thumb through blurry pictures or 10 pictures of the same thing in a Facebook album.

Putting down the camera.  The author’s thoughts about putting the camera down are well taken.  Again, it’s balance.  I try to learn each trip how to better capture my experience with the camera.  Still, there are times when I just enjoy myself without worrying so much about photos.  That’s especially true when I’m at an overwhelming or famous site – sometimes it’s impossible to capture the enormity of a place.  I have surprisingly few pictures of the Egyptian Pyramids for this reason.

What do you think?  How do you handle these things when you travel?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on the article.

Yup, that’s me trying to figure out my friend’s camera on top of the Great Wall.

Lollygagging in London

Photographing LondonHello lovelies!  If you follow me on Facebook or Google+, you know that I just got home from an extended business trip although I didn’t say where.  I spent close to two weeks in London!

Photographing LondonI won’t bore you with the business bit, except to say I spent many 12-hour days in the office feverishly working.  On the weekends, I feverishly crammed in as much sightseeing as possible since I’d never been to London.  (End result = exhaustion with a side of jet lag).

Photographing LondonAlthough I was there for business, I toted my camera along and tried to work on how I take pictures.  I love looking at travel pictures from other bloggers and secretly file away lessons I want to try on my next trip.

Just take pictures.  That was my biggest mantra.  I’m all about living in the moment but there are lots of times where I wished I’d taken the time to snap something.  The carriage below was the first picture I took on the trip – it was rolling by right after I checked into my hotel.

Photographing LondonBad lighting: being winter, I battled the sun a lot.  It never got too high up in the sky and set early.  It created a lot of harsh light situations at places where I didn’t have time go to go back and get better pictures.  I was barely able to get the Olympic countdown clock!

Photographing LondonI experimented with getting more randomness, signs especially.  I realized I love signs!

Photographing LondonOf course there’s food.  I feel like food pictures capture a lot about the trip.

Photographing LondonYes, I’m going to have to re-watch my Royal Wedding DVD and every other movie I own that’s set in Britain.  I only now realized how many movies on the list I shared with you fit that category.

Photographing London

Capturing Your Vacation

How do you capture your vacation? How do you like to take pictures? As I went through the pictures from our trip, I found some common threads/techniques which I’ll share below.

Don’t think of me as some fantastic photographer when you look at these. We like to take the shotgun approach. I am not a professional.

By the time we got home, we had taken 7 gigs of pictures. That’s 7 gigabytes of pictures.

Here are just a few.

The Sights

A.K.A. the “of course” pictures or “the good stuff.” These pictures are self-explanatory.

Khafre’s Pyramid and the Sphinx.

The Rammesseum.

Hatshepsut’s Temple.

Watching balloons go up at sunrise over the Valley of the Kings.

From our balloon – the Valley of the Kings is on the other side of these mountains.

View from our hot air balloon.

The Treasury at Petra

The Monastery at Petra.

Wadi Mujib Canyon, Jordan.

Site where Jesus was baptized.


Sometimes you should do the opposite of taking a step back. Take a step forward and stop trying to capture the entire scene and just get one thing.

Traces of paint on a carving of Horus.

Lighting candles for friends and their loved ones.

Salt flaking off the rocks at the Dead Sea.


I’ll remember what we ate, but it’s fun to show people. I don’t take pictures of every meal, just a few here and there.

Mixed grill brought to our table.

Koshary – Cairo dish of rice, macaroni, lentils, chickpeas and crunchy onions with a tomato sauce mixed in.



You may be at a site wishing you could get a picture without all of the people in it. It may actually be better to get someone in the picture to show perspective. It’s hard to explain to people just how gigantic some of the sites really were.

Using ourselves to show the enormity of the Great Pyramid of Khufu.

Me in the Great Hypostle Hall of the Karnak Temple.

Broken colossus of Ramses. I’m standing by his head and shoulder.

Every Day Things, Life

Sometimes random, these are every day things that you might not normally take a picture of. Looking back, they make the photo collection interesting (I might be the only one who doesn’t get tired of looking at ancient Egyptian temples).

Egyptian 1 pound coins.

Store just outside the Pyramids at Giza.

I couldn’t get enough pictures of camels. This one smiled mid-bite!

As it Happens

I took quite a few pictures while we were waiting around for something. It’s fun to show what we were watching.

Watching jewelry maker polish the bracelet they custom made for me.

Watching our hot air balloon get blown up.

Watching our balloon get deflated and folded up after our flight.


Much like getting perspective, it’s fun to juxtapose two things in the picture. I find it makes the subject much more interesting.

Flowers at the Temple of Philae.

Citadel with Roman ruins on the hill in Amman, Jordan.

Where We Stayed

I’ll remember our hotels, but I’m sure people would rather see pictures than me trying to describe it to them.

Our hotel in Cairo was originally built as a palace.

View of the Nile from our hotel along with Cairo traffic.

View from our cabin on our Nile Cruise.

View from our hotel in Petra.

The Dead Sea beach at our last hotel.

Points of Reference

I take pictures of signs all the time. I think it breaks up the string of scenery pictures when I show them to people and helps convey what we were seeing.

The Dead Sea – the lowest place on Earth!

Entrance to Mount Nebo, where Moses saw the Promised Land.

The picture above helps define this picture: the Promised Land from where Moses saw it.


If it’s acceptable to take pictures in markets and stores, I go for it. It’s such a fun way to show the buzz of how an area works.

Let’s not talk about what I did in the beaded necklace store.

Buying spices.

We Were There!

After a couple of trips, I realized I wasn’t getting enough pictures of ourselves! I never hesitate now to take a tripod or ask someone to take our picture.

Us floating in the Dead Sea. You can get a camera dry bag at REI or other outdoor stores.

My absolute favorite picture of the entire trip.

Thanks for giving me an excuse to share my pictures!